Pilot projects are due to be launched exploring plans to open up Hertfordshire’s libraries for out-of-hours use.

Politicians at Hertforshire County Council are looking at proposals to hire library buildings out to community and voluntary groups at times when libraries are normally closed.

The proposals were debated last month, however ruling councillors now plan to set up pilot schemes to test how it would work in practice.

According to the plans, during times when the libraries would be used by outside organisations residents would then be able to borrow books and other items via the self-service checkout system.

Chris Hayward, Conservative Cabinet Member for Libraries, said if implemented, he hoped the scheme would help compensate for the reduction in library opening hours brought in earlier this year.

He said: “The library service has been restructured and, while we have not closed any branches, it has been necessary to reduce opening hours by one-third.

“To help make the most of these important public spaces we're offering local voluntary groups the chance to use libraries buildings out-of-hours.

“It is also possible that members of the public will be able to use their local library during these extended hours to borrow, return or renew books and DVDs, pay fines or use the public computers.

“While the buildings will not be staffed during these extended hours, the county council’s customer services team will be available to provide support via telephone.

“We hope this innovative and exciting initiative will make libraries more like community hubs than simply learning resources. This will benefit our communities and help build stronger links with voluntary groups in Hertfordshire.”